Before initiating the conversation, it is very much needed to define what I am referring when I use the word sustainable or sustainability. I want to focus on the more holistic meaning which in the dictionary reads as following:
sustainability /səsteɪnəˈbɪlɪti/ noun
1. the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
“the sustainability of economic growth”
Sustainability as a parallel of making your organisation self-sufficient, capable to exist, future-ready, progressive and self-maintaining, which in our current volatile times sounds like a luxury. Think of three circles, one represents the Society (the people, employees, competitors, human side), the other the Environment (our planet, the office space, the culture) and the third would be the Economics (the revenue, the income, cash flow, market value & the demand) if we represent them together in a Venn diagram, their intersection is where sustainability lies.
Get your values right. We say it all the time, aligning your business values to your culture is essential for building a successful organisation. It should be the foundation of your business, which does not mean that you do not evolve and change those values, in fact adaptability is also crucial, always keeping in mind the vision and the value proposition. If we have the right culture, we will be more attractive to the talent that shares those values and it will make your organisation more productive and profitable. One of our clients recently said “Your customer experience will never exceed your employee experience” this is so true!
Reinvent yourself. Change is constant! Be open to change as we said before. Be open to adapt to a changing society and a changing customer base keeping an open mind and having the right tools to do so. From a human angle, you need not only talent that can adapt & pivot round to new realities but to partner with a technology that can also help you mould your future structural changes. We are optimising our time at work thanks to new features that allow us to automate some tasks that could have been time consuming in the past. But how many times has it happened that we end up needing an upgrade? The world changes faster than our technology and we end up needing a new provider. Therefore, to really be sustainable, optimise your time and energy, choose the right technology partner that has the expertise to be part of your journey long term. It’s ok to forget your password just don’t forget your focus!
Be strategic. Think long term. Easy to say and so hard to do sometimes! We get all caught up in our everyday tasks that we do not take the time to revisit our views and focus on a more high-level view first and then work on the smaller actions that fall into the operational side of our function or department.
Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes to look critically and see what is and is not working is the answer. I recommend allowing new senior hires to come up with ideas and feedback before we fully onboard them. It is tempting to get your new team members even in the pre-hire face to log into your systems and start all the compliance tasks. And that is fine, but do not forget that their fresh views could be a massive pro for you to become more strategic as a department. Gather their feedback and create a safe space for them to share their views. We hired them to add value to our organisation, we must be careful not to restrict them as we only restrict our own learning and growth.
Another angle is to bring in an external consultant. They have a strong acumen of knowledge and experience seeing other clients, often your competitors, you could benefit from and if you have the budget for it, it can be a big winning point.
Learning from other peers is essential, this is applicable to your own company. Think about how you share knowledge internally. But also, external, competitors and industry peers. We are all people ultimately – go to events, conferences and round table. Stay updated and never stop learning from the outside world.
Beyond that, as a leader keep the three pillars we referred to before (people, environment and economics) always in sight. Have meetings with other business leaders to nurture a good culture, make sure you all aligned on values and then implement those new strategies.
But to stay relevant you need to always ask yourself, how will this new strategy/ approach/process/ workflow impact my people, the environment and the finances.